South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years

Welcome to South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years, an evocative timeline of why we are Proudly South African, apart from our legends, our landscapes, our national parks, and so much more. Nkosi sikelele Africa. God bless Africa.

This post was initially published on March 2nd 2017, updated and republished on 25 April 2021 (last update 26 April).

South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years

South Africans should take special note on the night of the 93rd Academy Awards, 2021, as some of this country’s finest, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed (writers and directors) and Craig Foster (Host & Founder of Sea Change Project), are in the run for the Best Documentary (Feature) category with “My Octopus Teacher“.

Documentary Feature 2021 Oscar WINNER “My Octopus Teacher”

My Octopus Teacher” Trailer:

Having already won the BAFTA for Best Documentary at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, My Octopus Teacher will be among the favorites in its category, and will have to prove itself better than Collective, by Romanians Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana.


This is not the first time South Africa has had representation at the Academy Awards. Over the years, many South Africans have graced the Oscars red carpet, both as nominees and winners, proof of this country’s deep-rooted talent as well as a good eye for the arts.

Proud South African Oscar wins, nominations and submissions throughout the years

1937 (the 9th Academy Awards Ceremony) – Basil Rathbone (South African born British actor) – Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Romeo and Juliet

1938 – Basil Rathbone – Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, If I Were King

1966 – Ted Moore (South African born cinematographer) – WON the first South African Oscar for A Man For All Seasons.

1972 – Janet Suzman (University of the Witwatersrand’s Alumni) – Nominated for Best Actress, Nicholas and Alexandra

1986 – Caiphus Semenya (South African composer and musician)Nominated for Best Music, Original Score, The Color Purple

1988 – Jonas Gwangwa (important figure in South African jazz for over 40 years) Nominated for Best Music, Original Score, and Best Music, Original Song, Cry Freedom

IFrame1990 (the 62nd Academy Awards Ceremony) Mapantsula (Zulu, Afrikaans, Sesotho, English), Director Oliver Schmitz – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film. It appeared on the official AMPAS ( Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ) press release in 1989 but not on the 2007 updated list. Therefore Paljas is considered as South Africa’s official first submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category. It is possible that Mapantsula, although submitted,has not been screened for the Foreign Film committee for some reason.

1992 – Stephen Goldblatt (South African born), Best Cinematography – The Prince of Tides, nominated.

1996 – Stephen Goldblatt (South African born), Best Cinematography – Batman Forever, nominated.

1997 Paljas (Afrikaans) – Director Katinka Heyns – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2003 – Charlize Theron (a Benoni born South African and American actress and film producer ) – WON Best Actress, the first South African actress to ever win an Oscar, for Monster

Charlize Theron’s 2003 Oscar Win acceptance speech:

IFrameI’m going to thank everybody in South Africa, my home country… And my mom.

2003 – Ronald Harwood (Cape Town-born playwright) – WON for Best Adapted Screenplay, The Pianist Harwood’s love for the theatre and films started when he was a child and his mother took him to the theatre in Cape Town.

2004 Yesterday (the first ever feature-length isiZulu film), Director Darrell Roodt Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film

2005 – Charlize Theron – Nominated for Best Actress, North Country

2005 (78th Academy Awards Ceremony) – Tsotsi – WON Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first non-French-language African film to win in this category.

IFrameGavin Hood’s Oscar acceptance speech for Tsotsi, which he directed:

Nkosi sikelele Africa. God bless Africa.

Our stories … are about the human heart and emotion.

2009 Jerusalema (Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Sotho), Director Ralph Ziman – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2010 White Wedding (Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English), Director Jann Turner – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2010 District 9, Director Neill Blomkamp (South African–Canadian film director, film producer, screenwriter, and animator) – Nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay (Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell)

District 9, Official Trailer:

2011 Life, Above All (in Northern Sotho), Director Oliver Schmitz – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film, made the January Shortlist. Life, Above All received 10-minutes standing ovations at its world premiere at the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival.

2012 Beauty (Afrikaans), Director Oliver Hermanus – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

“Beauty“, Official Trailer:

2013 – Herbert Kretzmer (South African-born English journalist and lyric writer) Nominated for Best Music, Original Song for Les Misérables, song “Suddenly” (together with Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg)

2013 Little One (Zulu), Director Darrell Roodt – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2014 Four Corners (Afrikaans), Director Ian Gabriel – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2015 Elelwani (Venda), Director Ntshavheni wa Luruli – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2016 – Margaret Sixel (South African-born, Australian film editor )WON Best Film Editing, Mad Max: Fury Road

2016– “The Two of Us” (isiZulu) – directed by Ernest Nkosi – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.

2017 (89th Academy Awards) – “Noem My Skollie (Call Me Thief), (Afrikaans) – directed by Daryne Joshua – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.

Noem My Skollie producer, Moshidi Motshegwa, said referring the support the cast and crew received at home : “The greatest affirmation an artist can get is from their own tribe. We are ecstatic to have this affirmation!”

2018 Revolting Rhymes, directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer., Best Animated Short Film, Nominated. Revolting Rhymes is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s and Quentin Blake’s classic fairy-tale book of the same name. It was produced by Magic Light Pictures and animated by Magic Light’s Berlin studio along with Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation.

2019 – Charlize Theron, “Bombshell” – Best Actress in a Leading Role. Nominated.

2021 My Octopus Teacher, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed (writers and directors) and Craig Foster – Best Documentary, Nominated. Good luck!

Even if no Oscar is brought home, what matters are the passion and dedication of each actor, director, make-up artist, costume designer, editor, of the entire crew backing-up a motion picture which puts South Africa, proudly, on the Academy Awards map once again.

Initially wrote for the Huffington Post SA in 2017 and updated in 2018, published on 13 February 2018, republished on my blog on 24 April 2021.

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18 Replies to “South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years”

  1. Wow! What a long list. If I were to make a similar list for Romania, it would be only 2020, with two nominations. 🙂 Anyway, I remember Charlize Theron, one of my fave actresses, winning for Monster. I rooted for her back then. And I always watch her on the red carpet. She’s so tall and beautiful and elegant.

    1. Yes, I was also pleasantly surprised when I first learned about all these nominations and wins.
      Oh, Charlize is mighty talented 🙂
      I am curious who will win in the Best Documentary Feature. Romania or SA? Collective or y Octopus Teacher (not mentioning the rest). Tick tock 🙂

      1. Well, half of your heart should be with Collective and half with My Octopus Teacher + my whole heart with Collective, I’d say Collective has better chances. 🙂 Kidding! Tick tock, indeed… 🙂

  2. An extensive list, Pat. I never knew that Charlize Theron was originally from South Africa. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kind thanks, Mark. Oh, glad you found an interesting bit of information over here 🙂

  3. Wow! Pat, so many reasons for South Africa to be proud! I hadn’t heard about My Octopus Teacher before but am most intrigued and look forward to watching this. I remember the superb music of The Colour Purple, powerful and haunting. Tsotsis was intense! Lots of great films and thank you for sharing with us!

    1. Thank you, Annika, yes, South Africa has produced some good movies. One that stayed with me, although not nominated for the Oscar, was U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a version of Bizet’s opera set in a modern-day South African township.

  4. I also wanted to say, Pat, that the “Octopus Teacher” seems to be highly interesting and I would really like to see it! Many thanks for having presented this list:)

    1. Such a great pleasure, Martina.
      We watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix and I was pleasantly surprised by its cinematography. I must say that the kelp forest was unique, something I haven’t seen a lot of, and the slow motion filming added to the overall feel.

  5. Wow, this is an impressive list! I clearly remember Charlize Theron’s Oscar winning speech and her amazing crystal embellished nude gown. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Ha ha 🙂 Esti draguta, Gia.
      Lista apartine unui trecut mai generos cu timpul 🙂

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